Showing posts from December, 2008

The Will to Disbelieve

The Los Angeles Times carried an article recently by Chris Woolston, entitled "Holiday Hokum? The lowdown on 5 supposedly healthy gifts." One of those gifts was Intentional Chocolate , which readers of this blog know that I was involved in testing. That experiment employed a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind protocol, which is the gold-standard in medical testing, to see whether chocolate exposed to the good intentions of advanced meditators would make a difference in the mood of people who ate that chocolate, as compared to the same chocolate not exposed to such intentions. The study, a pilot test involving 62 participants, showed that it did indeed make a statistically significant difference. I admit that I was surprised at the outcome of this test, but data are what they are. The whole purpose of conducting an experiment is to ask questions about how the world works, regardless of our prejudices. And the strength of empiricism is that data always trumps preconc

The Living Dead

Good article on NDEs in the (London) Times . The afterlife has long been an article of religious faith. And now scientists are finally putting the idea to the test.

How skeptics work

This is a wonderful talk by Rupert Sheldrake on the tactics, rhetoric, and in many cases, the hypocrisy, of prominent skeptics. Download the mp3 audio file here . Or a higher quality version here . Both are on Rupert Sheldrake's website.

Neuropsychology of Paranormal Experiences and Beliefs

Here is a special online issue of the journal Cortex (Volume 44, Issue 10, Pages 1291-1396, November-December 2008), on the neuropsychology of paranormal experiences and beliefs. The issue addresses the problem of why do apparently normal people, with normally functioning brains, persist in accepting paranormal (and thus, according to conventional neuroscience, delusional) beliefs. I think this line of research is interesting in that it is useful to understand the origins of cognitive biases and mistakes of attribution, including the neuropsychology of such origins. But the mechanistic worldview of classical physics and the brain-as-computer metaphor assumed by many neuroscientists makes it too easy to dismiss the possibility that some of those beliefs are based on experiences which are not mistaken or delusional, but rather, quite real.